Instagram is the new flavor over the Internet. Capturing the moments and sharing them immediately while getting a peek into lifestyle of celebrities is what people seem to love about the platform. Probably that is why the number of active Instagram users in the United Sates is expected to reach 83.6 million in 2018, according to a forecast from Statista, the statistics portal.
As of April 2017, Instagram, the mobile photo and video-sharing application, had around 700 million monthly active users worldwide, a rise of 100 million from December 2016 figures, with an estimated 77.6 million users in the United States alone. The Statista expects this figure to reach over 116 million in 2020. However, the rise in Instagram users is co-related with increase in mental health problems, as a recent study has brought about detrimental effects of using the app on users’ overall well-being.
Image-focused platforms generate anxiety
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) highlighted an association between excessive social media use and mental health problems, especially among the youth. The study, based on the responses of 1,479 individuals aged 14-24 years, who gave their scores to different social media platforms on 14 health and well-being issues. The study looked into the possible role of popular social media apps in causing issues linked to loneliness, anxiety, bullying, depression and body image. Based on the participants’ scores, YouTube had the most positive effect on participants’ mental health, followed by Twitter and Facebook respectively. Snapchat and Instagram were at the bottom, when it came to their after-effects on mental health.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, said, “It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.” In view of the results, public health experts asked social media platforms to introduce necessary interventions to prevent the harmful effects and promote good health. They recommend some checks and measures that can allow users to take care of their mental health. Some of these are:
- Introducing pop-up warning to remind people that have been using social media for a long time. The recommendation was supported by 70 percent participants.
- The sites can put up information of support services for people identified with mental health problems.
- Fashion brands, celebrities, advertising organizations and others who post digitally manipulated photos should sign up to a voluntary code, displaying a small icon indicating that the photos have been edited and may not correspond to the real life image.
- There should also be a way that can allow young people to know or judge if the information they are seeing is trustworthy or not.
Referring to the growing potential harms from the increased use of social media, Cramer highlighted the importance of the proposed checks and balances on social media platform in making its use safe for mental health and well-being of young people. In addition, the researchers appeal to the youth to understand the risks associated with heavy use of sites including Instagram and to learn how to respond to “harmful content that slips through filters”.
Talking about the findings of the study, Michelle Napchan, Instagram head of policy, assured people and authorities that it was their top priority to keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place for its users, especially the young people. She ensured that Instagram provides all the necessary tools and information to help users in need while issuing proper warnings before certain content is viewed.
Ensuring optimum mental health
Today, there are many situations and circumstances which may expose people to the risk of mental health problems. Many people turn to social media to voice their opinion, share pictures and posts of good times or simply to check what others are doing. Comparing one’s life with how someone else is living is not a good idea as real life is much different from the virtual life. Believing that others are living in an idyllic world generates feelings of inadequate self-worth and anxiety, which can contribute to substance abuse and related mental health problems. While education and awareness can play an important role in preventing these risks, timely reporting can improve the treatment outcomes.
The California Mental Health Helpline aims at helping people with mental health problems with useful information on the best mental health facilities in California. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-559-3923 or connect with us over online chat to locate mental health rehabilitation centers in California that offer customized recovery plans depending on the patient’s specific needs.